Todd Taylor stands guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands as one of the most revered gravesites in U.S. history. Each year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the nation’s president places a wreath on the site to honor the memory of fallen soldiers as “Taps” is played.

Master Sgt. Todd Taylor (‘90) is the man behind the solemn music. As the premier bugler for the U.S. Army Band, Taylor says playing “Taps” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the highest honors available for military musicians.

“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “As a musician, you spend your whole life in school. You play for the crowd’s appreciation and the sake of performing. This turns that on its head. It’s about you honoring them, instead of them honoring you. It’s truly an incredible experience.”

Taylor takes his position very seriously, quoting line six of the Sentinel’s Creed, the oath that all soldiers who guard the tomb learn during their training. “My standard will remain perfection.”

“The standard is perfection because perfection is what they deserve,” he said.

Taylor always nurtured a love of music. “I came from a musical family and it just came naturally,” he said.

UofL fanned the flame that led him to pursue a trumpet career. He studied under the late Leon Rapier, a revered UofL faculty member and nationally-known trumpet player. With Rapier as his mentor, Taylor graduated with a bachelor of Music degree and went on to earn his master’s at Northwestern University.

After college, Taylor started playing for the Louisville Orchestra as an auxiliary trumpet player. He later joined the U.S. Army Band, believing it would be a short stint. What he didn’t expect was to enjoy it so much. Taylor happily has been a part of the band for nearly 24 years. He has traveled the world, met presidents and played music with some of the best.

Still, Taylor finds that playing “Taps” for fallen soldiers as they are laid to rest is among the most important accolades he will have in his lifetime.

Todd Taylor is featured in the Fall/Winter 2018 UofL Magazine. The magazine will be available online at and in print around Thanksgiving.